Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is There More Trouble Brewing over the Ethics of This Unethical Government?

There appears to be a new story brewing from within Stephen Harper's office, over a lobbying firm; Navigator Ltd., that is currently under investigation.

Actually, this is sort of a scandal within a scandal because when groups like this do come under investigation, it is supposed to be confidential; yet somehow this was leaked to the PMO.

Navigator Ltd. are the masters of spin and often used to soften the blow for politicians involved in criminal investigations. They handled or mishandled Michael Bryant's 'accident' that resulted in the death of a cyclist. The above video represents eye wittiness accounts of the incident.

"In the aftermath of Darcy Allan Sheppard’s death, Michael Bryant led an aggressive campaign to spin the story in his favour. It was suggested that after calling his lawyer, his second phone call was to hire the public relations firm, Navigator Ltd. In fact shortly after the altercation, many people have speculated that a Navigator representative attempted to prevent the media from filming Bryant in the back seat of a police cruiser."

However, this case involves Jaime Watt, head of the company and a former Mike Harris crony:

"Navigator is led by conservative strategist Jaime Watt, who made his name as an architect of Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution. He is also a convicted fraudster whose criminal past, which he did not disclose, forced him to resign from the Harris government in 1995. Since then, he has managed a number of Conservative campaigns."

Those Conservative campaigns include Brian Mulroney's during the recent Oliphant inquiry and Jim Flaherty's bid for leadership of the Ontario PCs. He is also closely connected to Harper's chief of staff Guy Giorno.

Lobbying czar probes firm with ties to Tories
PMO suspending communication with officials affiliated with Navigator Ltd. while investigation takes place, government source says
OTTAWA — Globe and Mail
October 27, 2009

The Prime Minister's Office is cutting off communications with officials affiliated with Navigator Ltd. while the federal watchdog of lobbying looks into the practices of the plugged-in firm, a government official said yesterday.

The specific purpose or target of the Commissioner of Lobbying's inquiries is not known, but the PMO has moved pro-actively in hopes of limiting further controversies during this heated political season.

There are close ties between Navigator officials and senior members of the Conservative government, starting at the top. Navigator chair Jaime Watt was a senior strategist in Mike Harris's Ontario government, and he is a friend of PMO chief of staff Guy Giorno, another veteran of the Harris team.

Mr. Watt was also a senior organizer for Jim Flaherty, now the federal Minister of Finance, during the 2002 Ontario PC leadership race.

Navigator's lobbying activities in Ottawa are conducted as part of a partnership with Ensight Canada. Robin Sears, who is affiliated with both companies, said he is unaware of any activity involving the Commissioner of Lobbying.

"We have no knowledge of any inquiry being made, we have no knowledge of any suggestion on the part of anybody within the government about such an enquiry," Mr. Sears said. "Until such time as somebody can put some names and faces on the claim, it strikes us as a little doubtful."

However, news of the commissioner's work has circulated within the Harper government, which came to power in 2006 by vowing to clean up Ottawa.

"I have been told that the Prime Minister's Office will not have formal or informal communications with Navigator," the government official said on condition of anonymity.

A spokeswoman for the Commissioner of Lobbying could not be reached. The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment.

Navigator is based in Toronto, while Ensight Canada has its offices in downtown Ottawa and specializes in "government relations."

There have been clashes recently between the PMO and Navigator over the firm's work for former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney at the public inquiry into his cash dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

Navigator also recently oversaw communications for Michael Bryant, the former Ontario minister who is facing charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death in an accident involving a cyclist on Aug. 31.

The Conservatives are hoping to avoid further ethical controversies after having been criticized in recent weeks for placing their logo on display cheques used by MPs to highlight stimulus spending.

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